Former CIA and DIA operatives warn of another 9/11 attack

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Fmr. Deputy CIA Director: Ignoring Extremism Will Create Another 9/11

The United States could be facing another 9/11 attack as factions grow deeper among the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, especially with the recently confirmed death of the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker, federal law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The tensions between Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the Taliban is as dangerous a national security threat to the United States as it was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said Brian Fairchild, who spent two decades with the CIA and has testified before Congress on terrorism.

SEE ALSO: An in-depth look at the 9/11 memorial and museum

"Right now, al-Qaida, under Zawahiri, needs the Khorasan group or some affiliated group to attack the U.S. again like 9/11 in order to lift up his stature and that of the organization," Fairchild said. "He doesn't want something small but something big – a big-scale attack like 9/11 to make him relevant again. This is an extremely dangerous time as Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban fight and compete for dominance."

See some of the most iconic photos from Sept. 11, 2001:

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9/11/2001: 14 most iconic images of 9/11
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Former CIA and DIA operatives warn of another 9/11 attack
The south tower of the World Trade Center, left, begins to collapse after a terrorist attack on the landmark buildings in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Gulnara Samoilova)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: (FILE PHOTO) A fiery blasts rocks the south tower of the World Trade Center as the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the building September 11, 2001 in New York City. Almost two years after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, the New York Port Authority is releasing transcripts on August 28, 2003 of emergency calls made from inside the twin towers. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Plumes of smoke pour from the World Trade Center buildings in New York Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Planes crashed into the upper floors of both World Trade Center towers minutes apart Tuesday in a horrific scene of explosions and fires that lead to the collapse of the 110-story buildings. The Empire State building is seen in the foreground. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Sarasota, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability' - (FILES) US President George W. Bush has his early morning school reading event interupted by his Chief of Staff Andrew Card (L) shortly after news of the New York City airplane crashes was available in Sarasota, Florida 11 September 2001. AFP Photo Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

A person falls from the north tower of New York's World Trade Center as another clings to the outside, left center, while smoke and fire billow from the building, Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001. Terrorists crashed two hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and brought down the twin 110-story towers Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability' - This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. The woman was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Messages scrawled in debris dust on the ladder truck door of Ladder Company 24 join a growing memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 in New York City to the firefighers from the company who lost their lives in the suspected terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Ladder Company 24 lost 7 firemen in the attack, including Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
New York, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability' - (FILES) The rubble of the World Trade Center smoulders following a terrorist attack 11 September 2001 in New York. Americans mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks Sunday nagged by new burning questions about their readiness to confront a major disaster after the debacle of Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Alex Fuchs (Photo credit should read ALEX FUCHS/AFP/Getty Images)
** FILE ** In this Sept. 14, 2001 file photo, as rescue efforts continue in the rubble of the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush puts his arms around firefighter Bob Beckwith while standing in front of the World Trade Center in New York. (AP Photo/Doug Mills, File) 
Emergency workers at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001 after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
394471 13: Firefighter Tony James cries while attending the funeral service for New York Fire Department Chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge, in front of the St. Francis of Assisi Church September 15, 2001 in New York City. Judge died while giving the last rites to a fireman in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The World Trade Center was destroyed after both the landmark towers were struck by two hijacked planes in an alleged terrorist attack on September 11. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 8: The 'Tribute in Light' memorial as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey, consists of two shafts of light to represent the World Trade Center Twin Towers, is tested before the fifth anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks September 8, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty Images)
The New York newspapers Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, show coverage of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

NEW YORK- SEPTEMBER 3: A wax replica of Thomas Franklin's photograph from September 11, is seen at Madame Tussaud's wax museum September 3, 2002 in New York City. The replica is to be part of an exhibit at the museum called 'Hope: Humanity and Heroism.' (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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A 32-page Islamic State recruiting document obtained in Pakistan by American Media Institute detailed the growing division between the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. The document -- authenticated by retired Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and two other senior U.S. intelligence officers -- called for the Islamic State group to launch a war with India that would draw the United States into battle and end the world.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also issued two threatening communications in August calling on believers to take action in the U.S. through more lone-wolf attacks, according to SITE Intelligence Group and Middle-East Research Institute, both of which track terror activity.

RELATED:Not All Islamic State Recruits Want to Be Martyrs

"Despite many years since 9/11, our enemies in the now Islamic State still see anniversaries as important times to stage attacks," Flynn said. "And regardless of how far away we get from the original attack against America in 2001, our need to remain vigilant on this coming anniversary is as high as it has ever been. We have had more than sufficient warnings from our FBI in the past few weeks and months. Our nation must never back down from these vicious murderers."

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told AMI on Sept. 3, the threat emanating from terrorist organizations has evolved since 2001.

"Since the 9/11 attacks we've seen the spread of jihadi ideology and the vacuum created under failed states," McCaul said. "ISIS in Syria and Iraq is an example of that and the growth of the jihad movement has increased exponentially."

The threat, however, has changed, McCaul said.

"Islamic State has enormous reach through the Internet and its dark space that allows the group to conduct and plan operations," he said. "It is an area that leaves most of law enforcement and the intelligence community in the dark and its difficult, if not impossible, to combat...We call it terrorism gone viral. Bin Laden had cadres and couriers but with the Internet, they can radicalize thousands of fighters in a matter of minutes."

The issue of "foreign fighters returning and hitting the homeland, which is a similar concern our European allies are facing at the moment, is something we are deeply concerned about as well," he added.

Flynn explains that the failure to target the radical religious ideas behind the Islamic State group has given the terrorist group room to spread – not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world.

The threat of a "major war in South Asia goes beyond the scale that we have been dealing with in the wars we've fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. The likelihood of far more deadly weapons of mass destruction being applied certainly goes up," Flynn said.

Fairchild said that since 2001, U.S. policy to dismantle safe-havens for terrorist organizations has failed.

"If you look at the world today there are sanctuaries all across the world. ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates are all over the world, in Yemen, Sinai, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa to name a few. The very premise of our counterterrorism policy has failed and our domestic security is being directly threatened," he said.

RELATED: ISIS Ability to Recruit Women Baffles West, Strengthens Cause

Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron declined to comment on the current threats or the steps being taken by DHS to mitigate the threats.

Although the Islamic State group's recruiting document details the deep divisions within the jihadi terror groups, it also states its reverence for Mullah Omar, who had escaped on a motorcycle following a United States mission to capture him in Afghanistan in 2001 and refused to turn Osama bin Laden over to authorities.

Known as the Emir of the Afghan Taliban, Omar rose to power in 1995 and aided and harbored members of al-Qaida before and after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He reportedly died in 2013, but his death remained a secret until July 29, when the Afghanistan government acknowledged his death just two days before peace talks between the terrorist groups were scheduled to begin.

See photos of Mullah Omar and reaction to his death:

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Mullah Omar death, recent events surrounding the Taliban
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Former CIA and DIA operatives warn of another 9/11 attack
An Afghan newspaper headlines pictures of the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, left, and Mullah Mohammad Omar, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. The new leader of the Afghan Taliban vowed to continue his group's bloody, nearly 14-year insurgency in an audio message released Saturday, urging his fighters to remain unified after the death of their longtime leader. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Graphic shows gives some information on the top leaders in the Taliban; 2c x 4 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 114 mm;
An Afghan man holds a calendar bearing the images of Afghan leaders including the Taliban's late chief Mullah Omar (bottom 2nd L) in Kandahar on July 31, 2015. The Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mansour as their new leader July 31, a historic power transition that raises hopes the relative moderate's leadership will pave the way for an end to Afghanistan's bloody war. AFP PHOTO / Javed Tanveer (Photo credit should read JAVED TANVEER/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan shop clerk shows a calendar with pictures of Afghan leaders including Mullah Mohammad Omar, center, in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, July 30, 2015. The Taliban confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar and appointed his successor Thursday, as a new round of peace talks was indefinitely postponed amid concerns over how committed the new leadership is to ending the militant group's 14-year insurgency. (AP Photo/Barialai Khoshhal)
Hafiz Saeed, leader of Pakistan's religious group Jamaatud Dawa, front, leads a funeral prayers for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/11 attacks and led a 14-year insurgency against U.S. and NATO troops. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)
An Afghan store clerk shows a calendar with pictures of Afghan leaders including Mullah Mohammad Omar, bottom row, second left, in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, July 30, 2015. The Taliban confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar and appointed his successor Thursday, as a new round of peace talks was indefinitely postponed amid concerns over how committed the new leadership is to ending the militant group's 14-year insurgency. (AP Photo/Barialai Khoshhal)
A man reads a newspaper at a news stand where local newspapers are displayed carrying headlines about the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/11 attacks and led a 14-year insurgency against U.S. and NATO troops. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Deputy press secretary Eric Schultz speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. White House says reports of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar's death are credible.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack after clashes with Taliban fighters in front of the Parliament, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 22, 2015. The Taliban launched a complex attack on the Afghan parliament Monday, with a suicide car bomber striking at the entrance and gunmen battling police as lawmakers were meeting inside to confirm the appointment of a defense minister, police and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Deputy presidential spokesman Zafar Hashimi speaks during a press conference in Kabul on July 29, 2015. The Afghan government is investigating reports of the death of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar, a presidential spokesman said on July 29, amid frenzied speculation about the rumoured demise of the reclusive warrior-cleric.The Taliban have not officially confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who has not been seen publicly since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban government in Kabul.  (Photo credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistan members of Jamiat Nazriati party march in a rally to pay tribute to Afghanistan's deceased Taliban chief Mullah Omar, in Quetta on August 2, 2015. New Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour called for unity in the movement August 1, in his first audio message since becoming head of the group that faces deepening splits following the death of longtime chief Mullah Omar. AFP PHOTO / Banaras KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan man reads a local newspaper at a news stand carrying a headline about the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. The new leader of the Afghan Taliban vowed to continue his group's bloody, nearly 14-year insurgency in an audio message released Saturday, urging his fighters to remain unified after the death of their longtime leader. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group 'Jamaat-ud-Dawa' attend funeral prayers for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar at a mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/11 attacks and led a 14-year insurgency against U.S. and NATO troops. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
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"In the past, well before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Americans tried to bribe the Emir of the Muslims of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Mullah Muhammad Omar with wealth, power, and better relations with the anti-messianic global brotherhood in exchange for Sheikh Osama bin Laden," the document states. "After 9/11, when the U.S threatened to attack, the pious Emir of the Muslims of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan said, 'A momin's (one who believes in God) honor cannot allow him to hand over his momin brother to infidels, even at the cost of power; a momin's insurance is his faith which cannot be bargained.'"

Despite the apparent reverence for Omar, the Islamic State group wants to usurp the power in the region by encouraging al-Qaida's fighters to defect and join their movement, the document said.

A Taliban official told the American Media Institute that Islamic State group leadership in the region is struggling to build recruitment and that the Taliban is engaged in continued fighting with its members.

When asked how the Afghan Taliban views the Islamic State group compared to the U.S. and NATO, the official said, "yes, [Islamic State] is much worse than [U.S. and NATO] – they are like a cancerous cell within the jihadi groups."

RELATED: Mullah Omar's Death Risks Upsetting Peace Talks

"Mainly we have our alliances with al-Qaida and we host their core leadership in Afghanistan – we have support of Al Nusrah, AQAP and al-Shabab," the official says. "But only the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is our sworn enemy. Taliban and al-Qaida has a single enemy among the Jihadi groups worldwide and that is the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, which is not according to Islam -- they are deviants."

U.S. Intelligence officials, who have direct knowledge of the region, said it is this competition between the various extremist groups has increased the threat to U.S. security both at home and abroad.

"Mullah Omar's death could present opportunities for other terrorist organizations to recruit disenchanted Taliban members; create splinter groups who may seek peace settlements with the Afghanistan government; or possibly incentivize the Taliban to continue its fighting efforts," a U.S. Intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

The threat against U.S. assets, personnel overseas and the possibility of another 911 attack against the homeland "has increased since the rise of ISIL and intelligence agencies are monitoring it closely," the intelligence official added.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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